Tidal patterns inspire Pure Bathing Culture
Having been on the West Coast long enough to gain some perspective, Sarah Versprille has an interesting take on the Pacific Northwest and its gorgeous coastline. The singer of Portland, Oregon–based dream-pop duo Pure Bathing Culture is originally from Rochester, New York. Daniel Hindman, her partner both on-stage and off, grew up in Delaware.
If something has struck the couple since they’ve been living out West, it’s that the beach truly is a place where you can go to get away from it all.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever spent time on any of the East Coast beaches, but it’s all very commercial,” Versprille says, on the line from a San Diego tour stop. “A lot of places are sort of mom-and-pop type shops, but still it’s very developed. There are lots of places to live, and condos to rent for a week if you want to go on vacation from Washington, D.C., or Dover in Delaware.
“Driving to the Oregon Coast, it’s basically the opposite of that,” she continues. “There are no high-rise condos, no crab shacks. That’s amazing, and so rare to find in the world these days. You can drive an hour to the coast from Portland and feel like you are really far away from everything. It’s an amazing thing to experience and I think unique to the West Coast.”
As anyone who’s ever spent alone time in a cottage on the water knows, there’s something beautiful and meditative about watching the ocean roll in. Pure Bathing Culture’s stellar debut full-length, Moon Tides, makes a great sonic backdrop for that. Picking up where last year’s great Ivory Coast EP left off, the record lifts off with the gorgeous “Dream the Dare”, which mixes jangly all-tomorrow’s-parties guitar with Versprille’s star-gazing-in-heaven vocals. Working with producer (and Shins keyboardist) Richard Swift, Pure Bathing Culture proceeds to roll out a collection of songs that are like looking at the end of a golden summer through a Vaseline-smeared lens, songs built out of blissed-out guitars, bathed-in-reverb percussion, and ocean-drift synths.
The sea and the way that its tidal patterns are tied into the moon served as an inspiration for the disc’s title. The ocean is, of course, in a constant state of flux that’s impacted by forces around it, which partially explains why the theme of transformation runs through the album. Fittingly then, Pure Bathing Culture ends Moon Tides on a very different note than the record’s start, the mood on the “Temples of the Moon” heading off in a noticeably darker direction thanks in part to the telltale-heart drums and Versprille’s disorientingly dreamy vocals.
“We were really inspired by the relationship between the moon and tides, the moon and water, and even the moon and human beings,” Versprille says. “That’s why we called the record what we did—we felt like it really related to the music, and also things that we were thinking about.”
All this raises the question of what exactly Pure Bathing Culture makes of the world, besides that our planet is always more beautiful when you can go to the beach and not have to find yourself standing in the shadow of Myrtle’s Crab Shack.
“I suspend judgment on what other people do, and don’t want to wax philosophical on politics or anything like that,” Versprille says. “I do think that everyone could benefit from being just a little more aware of the world around them—in general and all the time, whether it be of nature and your natural surroundings, the environment, or other human beings. Obviously, the world is a crazy place that seems like it’s getting crazier all the time. We could all use a bit more self-awareness.”
That’s an answer that suggests she’s spent time doing some serious soul-searching, perhaps by the water on an Oregon beach, standing there while watching the waves roll in.